Inside my holdall was a small silver torch. I took it out, flashed it around the room. Then I crept to the door, turned the handle slowly, stepped out onto the landing.
The torch light fell on a blue china vase that seemed about to tremble and break. Brightly coloured objects proliferated under the spotlight, as it wrapped around corners and alcoves. I felt sure that I had not seen many of them before, but now they seemed to jostle for my attention. I stopped at the end of the landing, shone the beam into a black bowl. Made, I thought, of the night outside the window. A running sheen swept around the depth of it as I moved my arm. Then, remembering why I was there, I turned the beam downstairs and lowered my feet to the base of each step.
I intended to search through the rubbish for the dress. Maybe my mother had pushed it as far down as she could, out of sight but not out of reach. I would find it. I pictured the mess, holding my breath, peeling plastic wrappers away from the fabric, bits of food. Then I planned to take the hand wash liquid from under the sink, that I had seen my mother use, climb on a chair and soak the dress till it was clean.
The torch light penetrated the hall and found the dustbin in the kitchen. I switched it off. The darkness protected me now. It contained some light that traced the kitchen doorway.
As I approached the dustbin, my mother spoke to me.
I stopped moving. Her voice was soft and seemed to carry directly into my ear.
I turned round.
She was sitting in the corner, head and shoulders in shadow, legs folded in a wash of moonlight. Her raised foot was half-submerged in the dark, anklebone gleaming.